Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Understanding Autism

Before Dominic was ever diagnosed with Autism, the movie Rainman was one of my favorites. I found it fascinating that Dustin Hoffman's character (Raymond) had superior math and memory skills.  There is a scene in the movie Rainman when Tom Cruise's character (Charlie)  takes Dustin Hoffman's character (Raymond)  to see a doctor. When the nurse comes out she says, "he's artistic?"  Charlie says no, "he's Autistic."  When they go in to see the doctor he asks Raymond a bunch of questions, one of which is to solve some very complicated math problems.  He is able to answer them very easily. He then asks him how much a candy bar costs.  Raymond says $100.00. The doctor then asks him how much a car costs and he says $100.00.  One of the last questions the doctor asks Raymond is if he thinks he has Autism. He says, "I don't think so, definitely not!"  I watch Rainman from time-to-time and some of the behaviors that Raymond possesses Dominic does too.  Case in point, last week we took him to a football game where there were tons of people and it was very loud.  Dominic started humming to himself and covering his ears.  I had to keep reassuring him that everything was okay.  The other day, I asked Dominic if he thought he had Autism.  He at first said, "baptism?"  I was like no, "Autism."  He answered "yes." I don't know if he truly understands all that means.  Dominic, as far as I know has never been teased or bullied because of his special needs. While people have stared at us, I can only think of one time where someone actually said something to me. They told me, "I would never allow my child to act like that!"  It bugged me for a while (it was around the time of Dominic's diagnosis of Autism), so I was ultra-sensitive. It's unfortunate that the bullying of special needs children (and adults) does go on and it breaks my heart when I hear of those types of stories.   A few weeks ago we went out of town.  When Dominic was little, taking him to any public place would give me so much anxiety.  This particular trip involved a round trip ferry ride.  It was loud, crowded and there were dogs on the ferry both coming and going.  Dominic has issues with cats and dogs, I think because they are not predictable.  Anyways, he did great and I was so proud of him.  We kept reassuring him that he was fine, so he was.  On our way back home, we stopped at a historical museum/fort.   During part of our time there, we went into a part where one of the ladies who worked there started talking to Dominic.  He immediately started covering his ears and humming.  She was looking at me, not disapprovingly, but more questioningly.  I said, "he has Autism."  She was like, "okay, if you decide you want to come back, please do!"  I rarely use Autism as an "excuse," only if I feel the situation warrants it.  I'm so glad that much more is understood about Autism now, though there is still much more to learn. I think sometimes that if Dominic was born even 20 years ago, we probably would have been told to put him in an institution. Lauren and I talk about how we don't know Dominic any other way but having Autism. He is such a sweet little guy (lately he has been telling me "I love you" multiple times a day). He definitely does have his "moments" though. Yesterday, he was squawking about something and after he was done getting upset he came into the kitchen and said, "feeling sorry for myself!"  Yep, he kind of was.  I have said it before and I'll say it again, our family is truly lucky and blessed that we have so many people that accept Dominic as he is.  This morning as he was eating his waffle and getting ready for school, he was providing some musical entertainment. One of Dominic's "gifts" is his amazing memory.   Life in this house is never dull!

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